It’s time to take responsibility – why the editor of The Lancet should resign

There are a lot of people, governments, and organizations who need to step up and take responsibility. But in this piece about taking responsibility, I call on Richard Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, the UK’s premier medical journal, to apologize and resign. If publishing the deceitful and fallacious  “Open letter to the people of Gaza” wasn’t enough to merit his stepping aside, then his failure to allow the Israeli Medical Society and/or Israeli doctors and scientists to respond to these lies in a rejoinder article certainly is.

I have responded to the malevolent letter (saying that it is merely ‘biased’ would be giving too much credit to the authors) in the pages of The Guardian. But had I known at the time that several of the authors of this letter knowingly lied and reported that they “had no competing interests,” violating The Lancet’s “Declaration of Interests Policy,” I would have called for his resignation in my rebuttal.

As it turns out, Mads Gilberts, one of the co-signatories on this letter, made the following statement in Dagbladet, Norway’s second largest daily tabloid (I used Google translate to convert the text from the Norwegian) regarding the most horrific terror attack ever carried out on US soil:

The attack on New York was not surprising, after the policy has led the West in recent decades. I am outraged by the attack, but I am equally upset over the suffering that the United States has created. It is in this context 5000 dead people must be seen. If the United States government has a legitimate right to bomb and kill civilians in Iraq, including those suppressed a moral right to attack the United States with the weapons they had to create. Dead civilians are the same whether Americans, Palestinians or Iraqis, says physician and professor Mads Gilbert.

Do you support a terrorist attack on the USA?

Terror is a bad weapon, but the answer is yes, within the context I have mentioned, says Gilbert.

The first author of the hateful Lancet rant, Paolo Manduca, is the recipient of funding from various anti-Israel NGOs. For example, this abstract clearly states that the study was funded by Interpal, Gaza, London, UK. As noted in the following bulletin, Interpal (also known by another benign-sounding title as The Palestinian Relief and Development Fund) is designated by the US treasury as a terror organization. And for anyone who wants to know why Hamas is considered a terrorist organization, read the description of what Hamas has done at the bottom section.

Whether a once-respected medical journal is the place for addressing complex geo-political issues is one question. But having chosen to do so by exclusively accepting a blatantly deceitful account from several highly radical and terror-supporting physicians and researchers – while rejecting any opportunity for a rejoinder from Israeli doctors – clearly indicates that Horton can no longer qualify as a fair, unbiased editor for anything published in The Lancet.

About Steve Caplan

I am a Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska where I mentor a group of about 10 students, postdoctoral fellows and researchers working on endocytic protein trafficking. My first lablit novel, "Matter Over Mind," is about a biomedical researcher seeking tenure and struggling to overcome the consequences of growing up with a parent suffering from bipolar disorder. Lablit novel #2, "Welcome Home, Sir," published by Anaphora Literary Press, deals with a hypochondriac principal investigator whose service in the army and post-traumatic stress disorder actually prepare him well for academic, but not personal success. Novel #3, "A Degree of Betrayal," is an academic murder mystery that is now in press! All views expressed are my own, of course--after all, I hate advertising. http://www.stevecaplan.net
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24 Responses to It’s time to take responsibility – why the editor of The Lancet should resign

  1. Frank says:

    I can’t say that I entirely agree. Voicing an option that’s critical of either Israel or the US involvement in Iraq doesn’t automatically qualify a person as a terrorist or as supporting terrorism, or specific terrorist groups like Hamas. For example, Noam Chomsky has made much more scathing reprisals of the US and Israel, yet he is hardly considered a radical terrorist. I think people can have very well informed opinions on the matter on both sides of an issue. The scientific point should be not to completely dismiss one side of an issue outright, instead we should see this differences in opinion as a basis for more completely understanding one another. That’s how we reach peace. Not by relentlessly blaming one another. So for that reason, I don’t think that a persons personal political beliefs should disqualify them from employment as an editor for the Lancet. This is the worst type of censorship, as it is quintessentially a threat for holding specific political or religious beliefs.

    • Steve Caplan says:

      Let me be very clear: nowhere did I say the criticism of the US involvement in Iraq or Israel qualifies one as a terrorist. I myself am not immune to criticizing Israel (for example, see: http://occamstypewriter.org/stevecaplan/2013/04/20/women-of-the-wall-fighting-inequality-and-discrimination-at-every-opportunity/). Chomsky certainly has the right to voice his opinions. But if you are referring to the authors of “An open letter to Gaza), their true affiliations with terror organizations have been documented.

      As for dismissing the editor of The Lancet: he is entitled to his opinions, however misinformed he is. But to use his own power as editor-in-chief to selectively choose to publish a piece written by authors with terror affiliations that has been likened to a “blood libel” in a prestigious medical/scientific journal is utterly egregious.

      And if you are concerned about “censorship,” it is The Lancet and editor Horton who have refused to publish the rejoinder from the Israeli Medical Association (http://proteinwisdom.com/?p=54663).

      Either I didn’t make myself clear, or you did not read my post in its entirety.

  2. Robin Stratton says:

    I have learned more about this situation from Dr. Caplan, a person whose views I trust and respect, than from any article, blog, or news source. Like Dr. Caplan, I continue to be shocked by the one-sided presentation the media has been delivering. WHERE IS THE OUTRAGE ON ISRAEL’S BEHALF?

    • cromercrox says:

      Where indeed. It beats me how anyone conversant with the facts can criticise to the point of obsession a country with democracy and the rule of law, a robust free press and equality for everyone irrespective of gender or sexual orientation and where life is sacrosanct, while ignoring the surrounding sea of darkness where the norm is tyranny, totalitarianism, chaos, misogyny, homophobia, a glorification of death and religious bigotry lethally applied. It seems, Robin, that there are a lot of ignorant and stupid people out there, and the acquisition of education or a higher degree does not insure people against such deficiencies.

  3. Steve Caplan says:

    And if there is anyone who thinks that spewing hatred and lies is not damaging – just someone voicing a benign “opinion,” another potentially anti-Semitic shooting occurred this morning: http://www.nbcmiami.com/news/local/Jewish-Rabbi-Shot-Killed-While-Walking-to-North-Miami-Beach-Temple-Police-270608571.html

    • Laurence Cox says:

      Sorry, Steve but you are beginning to sound like an apologist for the Israeli Government. The police “say there are no signs that this was a hate crime”. Just because “neighbours” allege that that it was linked to the painting of a swastika on a synagogue two weeks ago doesn’t show cause and effect as you as a scientist should know. We all know how violent America is and Miami in particular. To quote from the very first web site I found when Googling on Miami crime rate:

      “With a crime rate of 65 per one thousand residents, Miami has one of the highest crime rates in America compared to all communities of all sizes – from the smallest towns to the very largest cities. One’s chance of becoming a victim of either violent or property crime here is one in 15. Within Florida, more than 93% of the communities have a lower crime rate than Miami.In fact, after researching dangerous places to live, NeighborhoodScout found Miami to be one of the top 100 most dangerous cities in the U.S.A”. It is currently 58th.

      I am sorry that the Rabbi was killed, but him being Jewish does not automatically make it a hate crime.

      • Steve Caplan says:

        If you read what I wrote, I said “another POTENTIALLY anti-Semitic shooting.” The word “another” points to many verified instances of anti-Semitic attacks that are rampant in Europe (although less so in the US). One such example is the near-lynch in Paris (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/14/anti-israeli-protesters-attack-paris-synagogue).

        As for the lovely cliche “Israeli apologist,” which I think was coined by the BDS movement, I think this is a despicable term. Right-wing Israelis, with whom I vehemently disagree, are the enemy. Those of us on the other side, who have always been in favor of the two-state solution – the very type of solution that was rejected by the Palestinians in 2001 – are branded “apologists.”

        Do I think Israel should be a “Jewish state?” In an ideal world, no! I dislike organized religion, and think there should be complete freedom and that no one should be judged, valued, assessed or counted according to religious criteria. So you might ask, why would I support a Zionist state? My answer is that this is far from a perfect world. My grandparents barely escaped the pogroms in Russia, parts of my family were gassed to death in the murder camps in Europe. And today anti-Semitism in Europe is at an all time high (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2014/08/09/anti-semitism-europe/13662903/) + (http://www.nydailynews.com/opinion/behind-europe-anti-semitic-slurs-article-1.1891349). Including against those of us who are “Jews” by cultural heritage and never set foot in synagogues or places of organized religion. So if supporting a modest homeland for those who have been persecuted throughout history, and especially in North Africa and Europe since the second Diaspora is considered being an “apologist” for a government that I happen to despise – then I think you need to rethink things.

        • Laurence Cox says:

          Steve, I did read what you wrote and I also read the newpaper article that you referenced. “Potentially” is a weasel word that politicians use so that they can subsequently deny that they really meant what they said while giving everyone the impression that there is something behind it. We have seen Mark Regev often enough here on TV that I think the comparison would be understood by anyone in the UK.

      • cromercrox says:

        Laurence, you are, I think, being disingenuous. This latest atrocity is just the latest among many. In Britain, antisemitic attacks (always rumbling along at a low level) have doubled in the past month – they always increase during times of strife in Israel – giving the lie to the idea that criticising Israel is different from antisemitism.

        Sure, it should be, but it isn’t.

        The incidences of antisemitism in France and Germany are worse. One commentator has said that Jewish life in Europe is coming to a close – in recent months some 5,000 French Jews have emigrated, mainly to Israel where they feel they’d be safer.

        Zionism many or may not be desirable, but it’s certainly necessary.

        So, rather than nitpick with Steve about US crime statistics, I think you would do well to acknowledge this upsurge of racism and religious bigotry.

        However, selective bigotry is I fear deeply ingrained in academia and the Left in Britain as I document on my own blog. http://cromercrox.blogspot.co.uk/2014/07/the-guardians-freudian-slip-is-showing.html

        • Laurence Cox says:

          Henry,
          I agree with you that anti-semitic attacks occur, but here in the UK they are still thankfully rare. CST’s own figures for 2013 show 529 incidents (the majority abusive behaviour) across the whole UK. In comparison, Islamophobic attacks numbered 500 for the same period in the Metropolitan police area ALONE and the police are notorious for under-reporting less-serious crimes so the true figure is probably much higher. There is a problem with abuse of all ethnic minority communitiies (which includes abuse of one ethnic minority community by members of another) in the UK. To concentrate on abuse of one community while ignoring the others will not get to the root of the problem.

          • cromercrox says:

            There is a problem with abuse of all ethnic minority communitiies (which includes abuse of one ethnic minority community by members of another) in the UK.

            There is a moral equivalence here that’s disturbing. The Jews have lived in Britain peacefully for 350 years and have contributed in many positive ways to our national life out of all proportion to their numbers. Never, as far as I am aware, have they preached religious intolerance in their places of worship or their schools; glorified or incited acts of racial hatred or terrorism; desecrated the graves or places of worship of other religions, or assaulted people in the street because they belonged to a different minority group.

          • Laurence Cox says:

            Henry,

            You are being disingenuous again. You know as well as I do that it is not necessary for a minority community to commit such acts to be abused. The common factor between the 1930’s and today is the economic situation – the worse it becomes the more you see anti-semitism, islamophobia etc. Owen Jones’ analysis is instructive:

            http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/11/anti-jewish-hatred-rising-antisemitism-meaning

            What we are seeing is a renewed outbreak of xenophobia. In the past in Europe this was directed mainly towards Jews as an identifiable group that was spread across all of the continent; now it encompasses other religious and ethnic groups. To persist in treating anti-semitism as something that is unique and has nothing in common with other examples of xenophobia is to miss the opportunity to deal with the root of the problem. To quote just one sentence from Owen Jones’ article “Racism needs to be eliminated, not excused.”

  4. cromercrox says:

    In a free country, leader writers should be able to voice whatever opinions they like in their own journals, no matter how wrong-headed they are. Being an editor of a journal myself, I know from experience that editors are prone to publish stories or opinions with which others disagree. As a private citizen, however, I agree with your point of view, and I wouldn’t be surprised if others did too – readers, potential authors, subscribers and advertisers – who might prefer to spend their time (and their money) elsewhere, if they so chose, it being a free country and all that. As the great prophetess Bobbi Fleckmann, the Hostess with the Mostest (in that classic magic-lantern production This Is Spinal Tap) was wont to say – Impact Factor Money Talks, but Bullshit Walks.

    • Steve Caplan says:

      Editors have responsibilities, that include objectivity. I too serve as an editor on various journals, and this is a difficult and serious task. The choice of publishing a deceitful letter from authors that clearly have conflicts of interests and connections with terror organizations – and who have lied by not reporting these conflicts – is a serious breach of ethics. The failure to allow Israeli doctors and scientists to respond is even worse. Editor Horton has a long history of selectively promoting anti-Israel bias and hatred. http://honestreporting.com/lancet-editor-responds-to-hr-critique/

      • cromercrox says:

        I know. You’re right. So if people don’t like it they can take their business elsewhere, can’t they?

  5. Fred says:

    I’m curious to know what you think of this speech in the UK parliament.

    • Steve Caplan says:

      What, exactly is your point? That a British UK made a speech in parliament, so it must be true? Or that because he’s an orthodox Jew it must be true? This speech has no bearing on anything relevant to whether Horton should resign from the Lancet.

      • cromercrox says:

        Gerard Kaufman has a long history of spouting such nonsense. All this shows is that there need be no necessary connection between being Jewish and having the same obsession with the faults of the State of Israel. As Steve says, this has nothing to do with Richard Horton and The Lancet.

      • Fred says:

        Thanks for your reply and your view on Gerard Kaufman. I agree the opinion letter clearly has a bias as well as information on the situation in Gaza, yet I suspect the Lancet readership is intelligent enough to identify that bias and read the letter in context.

        Richard Horton must stay, because removing him would have too chilling an effect. I suspect we all desperately want to see an end to the bloodshed, and I suspect that end can only be reached when people and the leaders they elect learn to tolerate the views and existence of people with whom they disagree – then by extension, Horton can’t be asked to step aside simply for offending sensibilities.

        • cromercrox says:

          I think Steve’s point is more than that Dr Horton has offended sensibilities. If that were the case, then Steve would have no cause for complaint. Steve has actually said something different – he alleges that Mr Horton has breached his journal’s own guidelines on conflicts of interest.

  6. cromercrox says:

    To Laurence – the point I was making that the violence between minority groups tends to go one-way. As I am sure you are aware. I did read that piece by Owen Jones, and while I find Mr Jones a Left-Wing demagogue of a stripe only marginally less odious than George Galloway, I found myself partially in agreement with his piece. I felt quite ill and had to lie down.

  7. Tamara Lucas says:

    On behalf of The Lancet I can confirm that the letter submitted by the Israeli Medical Association has been accepted and will be published here: http://www.thelancet.com/gaza-letter-2014-responses later this week. Correspondence discussing conflict of interest in the open letter can be found here: http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(14)61124-7/fulltext

    • Steve Caplan says:

      Dear Dr. Lucas,

      I thank you for taking the time to respond to my criticisms of the Lancet’s publication of “An open letter to Gaza.” The Lancet’s (albeit belated) publication of a letter by the Israeli Medical Association is welcome development. I hope very much that future letters published in The Lancet will be vetted more carefully for accuracy, truth and authors’ conflict of interest.

      Sincerely,

      Steve Caplan

  8. Steve Caplan says:

    The Lancet has finally published a response from 9 Israeli or Israel-affiliated academics and physicians (Ahmed et al., including 4 Nobel prize winners: http://download.thelancet.com/pdfs/journals/lancet/PIIS0140673614613143.pdf) and exposed “An open letter to Gaza” (Manduca et al.) for the outrageous lies and vilification of the existence of the state of Israel.

    The authors’ reply (Manduca et al.:http://download.thelancet.com/flatcontentassets/pdfs/S0140673614613167.pdf) skirts all of the issues raised in response to their hateful and deceitful letter. Just one example of the shameless nature to which the authors take their anti-Israel bias is their comment that “a request for a humanitarian pause” was “rejected by the Israeli authorities”. (Citing, by the way as their ‘accurate source’, the following reference: OCHA oPt. Occupied Palestinian Territory: Gaza emergency. Situation report).

    Again it is remarkable that these authors can possibly dispute the fact the it was Hamas that has broken every ceasefire attempt, and resisted every request for ceasefires to allow humanitarian aid. This is documented in all major newspapers and reporting outlets. But this is only a single example of a tirade of lies.

    I find it remarkable that a scientific journal of any repute would allow such an absolute set of lies to be published under the guise of humanitarian concern.

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